Foreign rough sleepers in Bognor Regis could be deported

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Eastern Europeans sleeping rough around Bognor Regis could be deported back to their home countries.

Arun District Council is considering the tough approach as part of its new strategy to cut the numbers dossing down on the town’s streets and seafront.

Its housing officers are meeting with the UK Border Agency and other organisations about removing those from overseas who refuse to consider a settled life. Any enforced removals would be funded by the border agency.

An Arun spokeswoman said the district council was interested in becoming the first in Sussex to follow pilot projects in seven areas – including Westminster and Southampton – where Eastern Europeans and other foreign nationals were removed if they refused to return home of their own accord.

“It’s too early to talk about timescales as we are still in the planning stage and there’s lots of work yet to do with the other agencies and the UK Border Agency,” said the spokeswoman.

“But it has been confirmed a pilot scheme will be operating in Sussex.

“However, it should be emphasised this strategy is not just about enforcement.

“It’s a multi-faceted approach where we’re also looking to help people change their life experience.”

This could be helping those from within the European Economic Area to find work or to exercise their rights to stay in the UK if they have a job or are studying.

The success of the deportation threat in the trial areas is being evaluated but initial evidence shows it has resulted in an increase in the number of individuals volunteering to return home.

It is also believed to have led to fewer new rough sleepers from overseas in those areas.

The removal scheme is featured in the district council’s newly-agreed rough sleepers’ strategy for the coming year.

This said: “The numbers in Bognor have grown significantly, with the overwhelming majority of rough sleepers believed to be from Central and Eastern Europe – mainly from Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

“Many of those who are rough sleeping have alcohol problems and there have been associated issues with violence and anti-social behaviour.”

The strategy has been adopted just after the Arun district has officially become the fourth-worst area in the UK for rough sleepers.

Council housing services manager Corinne Waterfield told councillors last week the Arun district was behind Westminster, Peterborough and another London borough.

Of the figure of 25 rough sleepers, produced by a police headcount one night last June, 24 were sleeping out in the Bognor area to put the town near the top of the national rough sleepers’ hotspots.

Cllr Paul Dendle said: “A lot of these rough sleepers, particularly from A8 countries (Eastern Europe), are drink-related and that is causing anti-social problems, particularly in Bognor.

“I know a lot of residents of Bognor are concerned about the situation.”

The government has provided £55,000 to Arun to address the problem.

The council has been working with various partners to create a strategy to reduce rough sleepers.

Key elements of the funding will see it help to pay for a severe-weather shelter, a resettlement link worker and translation and interpreter services.